Jan 11 2008

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Hawaii vacation: Megan’s offbeat shopping guide

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Big_island
By Megan Douglas

As crazy as it might sound, Hawaii was never on my list of places to go. Well, at least places to go while I am (relatively) young. I like exciting and exotic locations. I liked being on Aitutaki and seeing only six other people who weren’t native to the island. But my sister called and said that if I wanted to go with her on a Hawaii vacation, she would pick up the hotel tab. In exchange, I would use my airline status to get us better seats. Sounded like a deal to me — so good, in fact, that we did it twice this year — once to the Big Island and once to Maui. It was on these trips that I was introduced to a new concept, hippie shopping.

I love to shop while traveling. I am not a big shopper during my normal life, but get me on vacation and I am always looking for something interesting to buy. However, spend any time in Hawaii and you’ll find yourself looking at the exact same products over and over again. The last thing I want to buy is something I have seen in four shops already.

I was lamenting this fact to my masseuse on the Big Island, and she mentioned that there was a great hippie town on the way to Volcanoes National Park (hippie was her description, not mine). It happens to be that my sister and I are suckers for a hippie town (we know all the words to the entire "Hair" soundtrack) so we jumped in the rental car and headed out.

On the Big Island we found ourselves in Hawi. It was a hot day, so we immediately zeroed in on the ice cream shop, got a scoop from the friendly locals and sat outside to enjoy a local musician who was sitting on the steps of the shop playing guitar. With a view of Maui (which is only about 20 miles away), guitar music and a delicious scoop of ice cream, we decided that hippie shopping was our kind of pastime.

Many shops in Hawi were quaintly located in someone’s home, and the entire shopping district was only about a block or two long. It was here that I found a beautiful necklace — an ocean-blue cat’s eye stone that the local artist had set in a handmade silver setting. Not only have I gotten compliments on it every time I wear it, but it was priced to move at only $40. I can’t help but think of the Hawaiian waters every time I wear it.

Our second trip to Hawaii landed us on Maui. We asked a local woman how best to spend a leisurely day. Her response was music to our ears: "Most shops in Maui carry items made in China, but sold in Hawaii. However, there are a couple hippie towns that have hand-crafted goods made by locals." She circled two towns on our map, Paia and Makawao, and we were on our way.

Paia isn’t an unfamiliar stop for visitors to Maui — it’s common to
pick up provisions there for the trip to Hana. But it’s worth a stop
for more than just snacks. We found stores with handmade clothing, art
galleries and beautiful jewelry. My sister bought a gorgeous string of
pearls and got to meet the artist who was in the store at the time. I
bought several beaded rings. Then we had a great meal at Café Mambo
which was one of the best meals we had on the island.

Makawao is a cowboy town at a delightful elevation with a wonderful
scenic drive to get there. Sadly, we didn’t actually see any cowboys,
but we did see a gallery with live glassblowing. We sat and watched
them create a beautiful vase, left a donation for the artists, and
headed out to the many other art galleries located in Makawao. On the
way back to Wailea, we were treated to a beautiful bird’s-eye view of
island as we wound our way back down.

If you are looking to bring home something a little different on your
trip to Hawaii, I highly recommend finding the local hippie town. It’s
a great place to find local artists with work inspired by the islands,
made in the islands.

Related Orbitz resources:

Megan Douglas is an Orbitz Business Intelligence team lead who loves to travel
the globe. She is always on the lookout for the road less traveled and unique
treasures to remind her of her trip.

More About: Cristina Alcocer

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